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How easy would it be to withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights?

22 November 2012

10:04 AM

22 November 2012

10:04 AM

As James says, the prisoner votes row will return to parliament before lunch today. The government is expected to offer the Commons three choices:

  • The retention of the blanket ban, in defiance of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)
  • Enfranchising prisoners serving up to six months.
  • Enfranchising those serving up to four years.

Parliament is expected to vote for retention, as it has done so previously. Such an outcome would, obviously, set the UK government on a collision course with the ECtHR and leave it open to very costly compensation suits. Damages of around £1,000 per case have been awarded in other jurisdictions, and leaked documents published last year showed that the government’s lawyers estimate the cost of compensation suits could exceed £140 million. That’s a high price to pay for asserting parliamentary sovereignty, but perhaps a worthwhile one if you believe that parliament is morally right on this issue.

The question, though, is what happens beyond the parliamentary vote and the threat of compensation. Many on the right believe that an impasse will have been reached and that Britain will have to leave the court’s jurisdiction. Nick Herbert MP makes this point in an interview with James Forsyth in the new issue of the magazine, and he will give a speech to Policy Exchange next week to explain how withdrawal might be achieved without damaging the UK.


Withdrawing membership of the ECtHR is a complicated business because many of Britain’s international obligations, particularly those related to the UN, are based on our having incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law and our subscription to other international human rights conventions. Subsection three of this article in the European Journal of International Law goes some way to illustrating how complicated the situation is (and how uncertain lawyers generally are about the related academic questions). In addition to the conventions and declarations of which most us have heard, we have to consider the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (1966), the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Covenant on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. And there are almost certainly more.

In many ways, the proliferation of international law reveals how powerful executive bodies have become in recent years; and, indeed, how inscrutably remote they are from representative institutions. The legal complexities associated with the enormous growth in international government are extremely hard to grasp and explain without substantial legal training and practice experience (I’ve tried my best dear readers!). From the layman’s perspective, though, there is an absurd irony, worthy of Evelyn Waugh, in well-intentioned human beings having gone to such lengths to protect rights that the recipients cannot even understand and even resent.

Unpicking this is going to be fearsomely difficult for parliamentarians, whose time is already hard-pressed; but that is not a reason to ignore an important democratic and legal question, and once which extends far beyond the matter of prisoner voting.

PS: In the comments below, Jedediah says that Britain should merely ignore the court and refuse to pay its fines. That is, of course, an option; but it would create a precedent where the government can break its own laws (which it had to force through parliament to put on the statute book in the first place) solely on grounds that it didn’t like the unintended consequences of its own policy. I think that is a dangerous precedent, most of all because it further limits the sovereignty and independence of the UK parliament, further divorcing voters from their rulers. And perhaps it might allow the government to ignore judicial oversight of its affairs, which is potentially unpalatable. Philosophically, I think the only options are compliance or withdrawal; but it’s very uncertain territory, which leads me to conclude that there must be more debate on these questions.

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Show comments
  • Daveyyy12

    Will power, nothing more and nothing less. Pass a law making its advice advisory.

    Be surprised how the world will move on, Europe will move on.. We can decide which laws we will follow and which we will ignore, Prisoner votes, ignore. It has no power, no army and no one will invade us.

  • David Lindsay

    If we returned to the situation whereby we could safely assume that almost everyone convicted deserved to be, and where there was far less crime anyway due to proper policing, then no one would be suggesting this.

    We could also have proper sentencing, and a proper regime for the far fewer people who would be in prison. None of whom would be in for less than the four or five years of a Parliament despite having been convicted of the gravest violent, sexual or drug-related offences.

    However, if we did not implement a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, then what would happen? What would it, or anyone else, actually do?

    Labour Party policy has always been against votes for prisoners. The last Government was utterly uncompromising on the subject. Quite right, too. But the party in favour of it is now in office.

    Might this be yet another issue on which Ed Miliband and Jon Cruddas could establish themselves and their party as the voice of mainstream Britain?

  • William Blakes Ghost

    Unpicking this is going to be fearsomely difficult for parliamentarians,
    whose time is already hard-pressed; but that is not a reason to ignore
    an important democratic and legal question, and once which extends far
    beyond the matter of prisoner voting.

    Well sorting out our departure from the ECHR would give Grieve and all the rest of the layabout lawyers who hang around the precincts of Westminster something to do. They’ve done sod all of any use for the last couple of decades (and some like Clarke a lot longer) so its about time they did something worthwhile! And if they don’t like it they can always be deselected I suppose…….

  • peterb

    The way around this is to hold a vote in every prison of the land on whether the inmates want to vote in local elections & general elections or whether they would prefer more Tobacco & privileges while banged up. If the prisoners voted for a vote in polls then I would suggest a pilot study over 10 years should be conducted with one prison being chosen to allow voting. Then after 5 years to report on that initial study we can wheel out Lord Leveson to hold a Ed Miliband judge led inquiry lasting no longer than 20 years to return a comprehensive report to parliament. And keep repeating until ECtHR gets fed up. More than one way to skin a cat.

  • 1maia

    I think prisoners should vote. Forget all your theory, look at real life. Is it a punishment? Do all those (mostly) men look up from their porn/gym/tv/learning new crimes from other crims to whine about their cruel deprivation? Do they feel deprived? Does it actually function as a punishment? Give me one instance. Whereas, with neverending boredom to fill and nothing to think about, nothing ever happening, where any event, however tiny, especially meals (i’ve worked in institutions) becomes a huge, much-talked-about event, if they had a vote, then they would talk, argue, discuss about it from boredom and curiosity and might just go back into society politically interested and aware, instead of almost certainly never voting as they do now. They would have participated in that side of life on which law and punishment are based – the theoretical, the communal – for maybe the first time, and perhaps connected to it.

    • salieri

      Ah, but would they be likely to vote for the party of Laura Norder?

  • Denis_Cooper

    It’s only necessary to derogate from Article 46(1) in the Convention:

    “The High Contracting Parties undertake to abide by
    the final judgment of the Court in any case to which they are parties.”

    Parliament could pass an Act authorising and instructing the Foreign Secretary to do that, formally announcing that the UK no longer consents to be bound by the decisions of the Strasbourg court.
    If any other countries which are our counterparties in that Convention or in any other treaty don’t like that, then basically they can lump it.

    • HooksLaw

      Only? So in fact we can remain in but refuse to abide by it. Whats the point of that? Your ‘only’ is the very heart of it.

      • Denis_Cooper

        The point is that by doing that we tell the world that we still uphold the general principles of the Convention but are no longer willing to automatically accept the interpretations of those principles by the Strasbourg court.

        • HooksLaw

          And of course then why does the entire world not do the same? Why is the clause there?
          Its because the entire convention is meaningless without it.

          • Denis_Cooper

            No it’s not, because the convention would not become “meaningless” if the decisions of the court were only advisory rather than binding, which is how it should have been and indeed how at least one MP has incorrectly claimed that it originally was.

  • HooksLaw

    It is pretty unthinkable that we would withdraw from the ECHR. What kind of example would that set? The notion that we should leave over the issue of a few prisoners voting is absurd and my understanding was that its acceptable to the ECHR that some classes of prisoner are still not allowed the vote.

    The notion of sovereignty is a bit overused. We are in NATO and if say Turkey was attacked we would be allied to it and obliged to offer help. There would not be a question of voting in parliament for that – parliament voted away that bit of its rights when we joined NATO. America did not vote in Congress to help us in the Falklands. The supplied vital weapons, if we had asked they would have sent an aircraft carrier.

    Not that I want to get involved in that argument – its the example that is important. We founded the ECHR, previously people had to appeal to it direct, now its part of UK law. If no level of agreement can be reached we are stuck with it.

  • TomTom

    The British CREATED the Convention in Treaty of London 1949 with France and a few minnows to show how morally superior they were…….

  • TomTom

    The ECHR is irrelevant. Its Judgments are now part of English Case Law and Precedents have been set which are now integral to English Law.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Rhoda has a simple solution. Claims for compensation for prisoners should be dealt with by the department which handles deportation appeals. When they get rid of their backlog.

  • Nick Kaplan

    “In the comments below, Jedediah says that Britain should merely ignore the court and refuse to pay its fines. That is, of course, an option; but it would create a precedent where the government can break its own laws (which it had to force through parliament to put on the statute book in the first place) solely on grounds that it didn’t like the unintended consequences of its own policy.”

    If the government introduces a bill to make it law that no prisoner will have the vote and parliament passes this bill, in what sense will the government be breaking the law? It will only have broken the law if one assumes ECtHR judgements take precedent over parliamentary statutes, but on what basis are you making that assumption? It is a long standing principle of UK law that parliament is sovereign. With regard to EU law parliament has voluntarily (if stupidly) surrendered some of that sovereignty (although in principle could take it back by repealing the European Communities Act 1972), but, as we are incessantly reminded by supporters of the ECtHR, the ECtHR is distinct from the EU. There is no reason to think a ruling of the ECtHR can bind parliament and so no reason to think that by ignoring the ruling and refusing to pay the fine, the government would be breaking the law, so long as parliament has given it the authority to do so.

    • HooksLaw

      Britain is subject to international rule where it has signed in to international obligations.

      Like the UN.

      Parliament could vote to murder the first-born from next year but would that be legal? There are many who in the midst of their usual diatribe argue that Blair should be tried as a war criminal, this despite parliament voting to invade Iraq.

      Parliament could vote to give its members a 1% levy on all the monies it taxes . Would that be legal? Or would it be in contravention of the UN anti corruption convention?

      • Nick Kaplan

        If parliament votes for it then yes it would be legal (although certainly not moral), unless there is an arrangement equivalent to that which we have with the EU (i.e. in which parliament has expressly declared the acts of some other body to take precedence). Since parliament has not given precedent to anything other than EU law and since, as you yourself so smugly insist above, the EU and ECHR are separate, it follows that parliament will not be bound by anything emanating from the ECtHR (or the UN or any other international body).

        • HJ777

          You are assuming that there no limits to what parliament can legally decide. This is simply not so.

          • Nick Kaplan

            Aside from the strange case of the EU where parliament seems to have bound itself (and may/ hopefully will, one day unbind itself) the principle of parliamentary sovereignty means exactly that i.e. that there is no legal limit to what parliament can decide.

            • HJ777

              That is highly debatable. The UK parliament is bound, for example, by UN treaties. There is also the principle of consent which, some would argue, permits the courts to override the law as decided by parliament.

        • TomTom

          The British Constitution is actually “The Crown In Parliament” which means BOTH Houses plus Royal Assent though in fact Royal Assent is actually given by Royal Assent Act 1967 using Letters Patent………btw the ECHR and EU are NOT separate as the EU itself is now party to the Convention…” the accession became a legal obligation under the Treaty of Lisbon,
          which entered into force on 1 December 2009 (see its Article 6,
          paragraph 2). The legal basis for the accession of the EU is provided
          for by Article 59, paragraph 2 ECHR (“the European Union may accede to
          this Convention”), as amended by Protocol No. 14 to the ECHR which
          entered into force on 1 June 2010. “

        • HooksLaw

          Of course parliament is bound by UN treaties and conventions.

        • HJ777

          Incidentally, ‘Parliament’ includes the sovereign, so what becomes law it isn’t just a matter of voting.

      • TomTom

        Parliament cannot legislate Murder as legal because Murder exists as a Common Law Offence. The Reichstag approved Hitler’s Enabling Act and operated within the Weimar Constitution yet Ribbentrop was still hanged at Nuremberg for doing exactly what Blair is accused of…and Keitel was executed at Nuremberg for exactly what British and Us Generals did in Iraq. You really should read some Kelsen

        • HooksLaw

          You really need to grow some sense. What you quote is precisely my point. There are limits to what parliament can do. There is international law to constrain it.

          US generals did not commit war crimes in Iraq and much though I dislike him, Blair is not a war criminal either.

          • Nick Kaplan

            But international law is binding in the UK only in so far as Parliament chooses to incorporate it (with the odd exception of EU law which is automatically binding because of the EC Act 1972). All such law could be revoked by parliament at its discretion, if it so desired, and it would make no sense to say that it would be ‘illegal’ for parliament to do this.

          • eeore

            The rape, and coercion to rape, in such places as Abu Ghraib is a war crime.

            And there is evidence that the orders for such treatment was authorised by all levels of the command chain, from the president down.

          • TomTom

            Waging an ILLEGAL WAR are the grounds for execution at Nuremberg, in the case of Keitel – ”
            Conspiracy to commit crimes against peace;
            Planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression;

          • TomTom

            Blair and the British and US GEneral Staff violated Principle VI as used at Nuremberg to try German Officers and Politicians for War Crimes. It is clear why you don’t like to apply the same legal principles to the Victors at Nuremberg but the evidence shows that Blair et al have charges to answer

        • Francis Horner

          Not actually true, Parliament can, and frequently does, make laws that override common law principles – a recent example was the right to silence – now courts can infer guilt whereas they could not under common law.

          • TomTom

            R v Cowan [1996] Q.B. 373 and as for ECHR: ”
            “Whether the drawing of adverse inferences from an
            accused’s silence infringes Article 6 is a matter to be determined in
            the light of all the circumstances of the case, having particular regard
            to the situations where inferences may be drawn, the weight to be
            attached to them by national courts in their assessment of the evidence
            and the degree of compulsion inherent in the situation.” (Murray
            (John) v UK (1996) 22 E.H.R.R. 29.)
            Sections 34 and 35 are, per se, not a breach of the
            ECHR. In Condron v UK (2001) 31 E.H.R.R. 1, the Strasbourg
            Court recognized that the CJPOA aims to strike an appropriate balance
            between the right to silence and the drawing of adverse inferences.”

    • TomTom

      I am sure Russian prisoners have the vote…….

  • Noa

    “..I think that is a dangerous precedent, most of all because it further
    limits the sovereignty and independence of the UK parliament, further
    divorcing voters from their rulers.”

    An ethical position David. Though one that can be honoured as much in the breach as the observance. Why only the other week we were treated to the former Chief of the Met, Ian Blair proudly telling us how he deliberately disregarded the criminal law because it didn’t fit with his beliefs.

    But you do come to nub of the problem. The UK’s own tradition of honouring the most distasteful of obligations, albiet through gritted teeth. Probably because ministers are advised by fearful civil servants quoting briefs prepared by risk averse civil service lawyers.

    What do the French and Italians do with all those fines from the EHCR? Chuck them in the bin?

  • Nick Kaplan

    £140 million cannot be a high price to pay for asserting parliamentary soverignty; by paying it we’d be accepting that parliament was not soverign!

    • HooksLaw

      £140 million is a preposterous sum to pay simply to feel smug. I don’t particularly think prisoners should vote, but I certainly don’t want to throw away 140 million.

      Especially as the actual ruling says
      ‘Prisoners in the UK must be given the right to vote, the European court of human rights (ECHR) has ruled, though ministers may determine which inmates should be enfranchised.’
      ‘The keenly anticipated ruling on Scoppola vs Italy brings some political relief in confirming there is significant leeway allowed in how the rights are granted, meaning that individual countries may choose to exclude certain groups of serious offenders, such as murderers and rapists.’
      The ECHR have in fact accepted, “the UK government’s argument that each state has a wide discretion as to how it regulates the ban, both as regards the types of offence that should result in the loss of the vote and as to whether
      disenfranchisement should be ordered by a judge in an individual case or
      should result from general application of a law”

      Faced with this I refuse to get exercised on the issue – its clearly just another whipping boy for the UKIP loons who regularly equate the ECHR with the EU. The issue is being dealt with now of course because Blair and Brown regularly refused to grasp the nettle.

  • Outandproud

    OK, will someone explain to me why prisoners should not be allowed to vote? They are citizens after all. IMO it’s anti-libertarian to deny them the right to vote – the nanny state at its worst. Granted, it would not be very pleasant to be an MP having to canvass a prison, but on the other hand perhaps this would bring some of them into greater contact with prisoners and help them devise policies to reduce re-offending?

    • Colonel Mustard

      It falls back on a rather ancient principle that those who voluntarily reject a society’s laws should not be entitled under them. In other words a man who breaks into your house, say, and steals your property should not have the same right to elect a representative as you who respects the private property of others. This is almost a partial evolution of the old Anglo-Saxon concept of being declared ‘outlaw’ which meant that having broken society’s laws you were not entitled to their rights and protection. That is all debatable but is often confused with basic moral obligations of treating human beings decently whilst in prison and attempting to rehabilitate them.

      Of course in this day and age where the prison population has expanded to include many who have fallen foul of New Labour’s stalled but by no means ended project to create criminalising laws that do not require any element of mens rea for conviction in almost every aspect of our lives, as well as many prisoners of conscience, there are serious questions to be asked about the extent to which their imprisonment implies a voluntary rejection of society’s laws.

      • HJ777

        I’m not sure that I understand what you’re saying about this ancient principle.

        Are you saying that if someone burgles a house, then they give up their own right to not have their own house burgled by someone else (and so that someone else couldn’t/shouldn’t be prosecuted)? That doesn’t seem quite right to me.

        • Colonel Mustard

          No, I am not saying that.

          • HJ777

            Sorry – I didn’t mean to imply that this is your view.

            I’m just trying to clarify what you meant about the principle that you were referring to. On the face of it, it seems crazy.

            • Colonel Mustard

              It came about in an age where there was not the extensive justice system or a police force. So view it as similar to nuclear deterrence, the sanction being that if you chose to break the law you would not be protected by it. The ‘outlaw’ had no rights which is why most of them fled from their communities in order to survive. We now live in a society where our ‘outlaws’ co-exist with us, protected by the same laws even when they break them.

              I’m not advocating, only attempting to explain.

              • HJ777

                Thanks for the explanation. I did realise that you weren’t advocating it.

                It does sound like a crazy principle and not one we should be following in this age.

                • FrenchNewsonlin

                  Not at all. Its a very sound principle. Criminals are outlaws in the original sense of the word having rejected society’s efforts at socialising them i.e. imparting the rules and norms of civilised society on them during their upbringing. In that case when they transgress they need to be punished in a way that makes society’s disapproval patently clear and obvious, otherwise the boundaries of civilised society become ever more tenuous. Hanging for example remains a powerful form of dissuasion for would-be outlaws.

                • HJ777

                  You’ve missed the point I was making above in response to Colonel Mustard.

                  The reason why it isn’t sound is because, by that principle, if you burgle someone, then anyone else should be allowed to burgle you – without sanction. This means that someone who, quite unknowingly, burgles another burgler, should face no criminal sanction. In such circumstances, I would feel very little sympathy for the burgled burgler, but that doesn’t mean that the second burgler shouldn’t equally be considered a criminal.

                  I wasn’t suggesting that criminals shouldn’t be punished, as you say. What is under discussion a human rights issue, not one of criminal punishment.

                • FrenchNewsonlin

                  “those who voluntarily reject a society’s laws should not be entitled under them”… My point was in response to the quoted sentence. Outlaws should be denied a vote because they have transgressed, they can regain the franchise once they have been rehabilitated.

                • HJ777

                  But based on the statement: “those who voluntarily reject a society’s laws should not be entitled under them” you would conclude that such a criminal should have no rights or protections whatsoever under the law. So if you steal a car, you would forfeit your right not to be murdered, for example.

                  That’s why it’s a crazy principle and that’s why it does not follow that you should lose the right to vote if you transgress the law.

                  In any case, many people transgress criminal law every year – yet are not given custodial sentences and so do not lose their vote. Are you advocating that everybody who breaks criminal law should lose the vote?

                • FrenchNewsonlin

                  …’In any case, many people transgress the law every year’… an argument for more and heavier custodial sentences then, if society is not managing to socialise its members in traditional fashion.

                • HJ777

                  No, it isn’t an argument for more and heavier custodial sentences.

                  You might think that should be the case, but it’s an entirely separate and unrelated argument. Some might argue that there are better ways for “society to socialise its members” than imprisonment.

                • HooksLaw

                  Hanging remains a powerful persuasion for murderers, who are merely one small band of what you nrefer to as outlaws. what oother hanging offences are you proposing? Be careful for your own sake, don’t suggest ‘stupidity’.
                  Clearly for some people they have never come to terms with the withdrawal of drawing and quartering.

                • TomTom

                  Murder is a curious offence in England and requires the CPS to decide if that charge is preferable to Manslaughter whereas US legal practice has degrees of Murder making the charge less political for the Prosecutor

    • HJ777

      I agree, and it is a danger that governments would be able to deny people the chance to vote them out by introducing laws to put those people in prison.

      It’s also somewhat arbitrary who goes to prison and who receives some other form of punishment. Often it is decided simply by policy on whether prisons have the capacity.

      My view is that, much maligned as it is, the ECHR does serve a useful (but not flawless) role in limiting the power of governments over their people. I also find it hard to see the justification for denying prisoners the vote, except, perhaps, in cases of murder (when the offender has clearly denied his/her victim the right to vote).

    • David S

      I agree that they should be able to vote.

      But I also think that this should be a decision for the UK Parliament and not the ECHR.

      • HJ777

        Is it not dangerous when the government, through having a majority in parliament, can decide who can and who cannot vote it in or out?

        Much of the point about human rights legislation is that it limits the ability of governments to control the freedoms of their people.

        • Noa

          The electorate determined the MPs to represent its views in #parliament, they had no say in the appointment of the EHCRs judges.

          • HJ777

            That is conflating two different things.

            The electorate has no say in the appointment of judges in the UK either. The whole point is that they are separate from the executive and the legislature – they are interpreting and applying the laws, not creating them.

            • HooksLaw

              You are being far too serious and sensible.

              And of course in your post below you are absolutely right. Someone commits a crime and gets a suspended sentence – hey presto they get the vote. But on a chance of a custodial sentence for the same crime they do not. Personally I am not bothered, and I do not think prisoners should vote. But your example points out the lunacy of getting worked up over it.

            • Noa

              They elect the government, which appoints and pays the judges.
              And we pay for the judges in the EHCR.

              And your argument that judges do not create law, either here or in the EHCR, is simply wrong.

              • HJ777

                Judges can create binding legal precedent – not the same thing.

                I attended a very interesting lecture on the subject a couple of years ago given by a close relative who is a high court judge. Pity you weren’t there.

    • eeore

      No the nanny state at it’s worst is sacking someone because of there membership of legitimate political party on the grounds they might be attacked by people opposed to that political party. Thankfully the ECHR found this not to be the case.

    • Nick Kaplan

      For the same reason that it is appropriate to deprive them of their liberty i.e. because they have committed a crime of sufficient seriousness to justify temporary exclusion from society and deprivation of their liberty.

      Surely any libertarian (or anyone) would recognize that one’s right to liberty is far more important than one’s right to have a 1 in 60 million chance of influencing an election between 3 parties who would behave the same once elected. Given that this is so, if one is justified in depriving someone of their liberty one is justified in depriving them of the vote.

      It also follows that if one cannot justify depriving someone of the vote then one cannot justify depriving them of their liberty. So if it is the case that prisoners sentenced to less than 4 years cannot legitimately be deprived of the vote then neither can they legitimately be put in prison. This would give the rather absurd consequence that one cannot justify imprisonment of someone sentenced to less than 4 years in prison.

      I therefore contend that one cannot reasonably hold all of the following propositions to be true:

      (1) Deprivation of liberty for e.g. 3 years is a more serious punishment than (temporary, or any) deprivation of the vote.
      (2) Prison sentences of less than 4 years are justified.
      (3) It is not justified to deprive someone serving a prison sentence of less than 4 years of the vote.

      Since (1) is self-evidently true and (2) would be accepted by almost everyone, (3) must be false. Anyone insisting that all 3 are true together has not thought about what they are saying. Since the ECtHR seems to hold that (2) and (3) are true, and cannot reasonably deny (1), it is spouting thoughtless absurdity and ought to be ignored.

      • HJ777

        Bizzarre argument.

        So the state is automatically justified in removing any liberties from you if they are individually considered to be a less serious punishment than the length of your prison sentence?

        • Nick Kaplan

          If your prison sentence is justified then it follows that it cannot be unjustitied to give you a sentence that is less harsh (i.e. depriving somone of the vote).
          Of course you may argue that since it is cumulatively more harsh to take away the vote and put you in prison, then combining the 2 is unjustified (although that would leave the difficult task of explaining at which point a sentence becomes too harsh and would require a comparison between say a one year sentence with no vote and a 1.5 year sentence but with the vote – I know which I’d prefer).
          However as I understand it this was not the agrument of the ECtHR (or an argument made by anyone else), they simply asserted that to deprive prisoners as a class of the vote is a violation of their human rights, but it is clear that they cannot believe this if they think:
          (a) The prison sentence is justified (i.e. does not violate the prisoner’s rights); and
          (b) The prison sentence is more harsh than not being allowed to vote.
          One cannot consistently hold that is legimate to deprive someone of a more important right while illegitimate to deprive them of a lesser right.

          • HJ777

            Your argument makes no sense whatsoever.

            There is no natural connection between a prison sentence and the right to vote. We don’t automatically apply other (lesser, in your opinion) sanctions as well as a prison sentence – so why should we automatically remove the right to vote? The judge decides on a prison sentence. There is no reason why another sanction should be automatically applied.

            You are wrong to compare the severity of a punishment that is perfectly compliant with human rights laws with removing a right under human rights laws.

            The ECtHR is absolutely right.

            • Nick Kaplan

              I don’t know what a ‘natural connection’ between the right to vote and the right to liberty could conceivably be, so am not qualified to say whether one exists between the 2, but I don’t see why a natural connection is needed for my argument to be valid. The point is one about logical consistency, and the court is not being consistent in so far as it accepts that the right to liberty is more important than the right to vote.

              My point is this: The right to liberty is a hugely important human right. To lock someone in prison would generally be a violation of that right unless it is a justified punishment for a proven crime of sufficient seriousness to warrant a prison sentence. If a prison sentence is a justified punishment it follows that it cannot be a violation of the prisoner’s right that he is held in prison. Further if one accepts that the right to liberty is more important than the right to vote (which I had thought was self-evident but you hint at disagreement) then one cannot on the one hand insist that depriving someone of the right to vote is automatically a violation of their rights while depriving them of their liberty, in the same circumstances, is not.

              Part of what it means to recognize that punishment A (loss of liberty) is more harsh than punishment B (temporary loss of the vote), is that if one’s wrongdoing is not sufficiently serious to render B justified/ legitimate then it cannot (logically cannot) be sufficiently serious to justify/ legitimize applying punishment A. Therefore, if we take the ECtHR seriously in insisting that a blanket deprivation of the right to vote is unjustified it cannot then consistently hold that a blanket policy of imprisoning all people with prison sentences is justified (which is clearly absurd).
              It would therefore have to deny either:

              (1) Deprivation of liberty is more serious i.e. is a harsher punishment than deprivation of the vote;

              (2) It is legitimate to imprison all people legitimately given prison sentences; or

              (3) It is illegitimate to remove the vote from everyone simply because they have committed a crime justifying imprisonment.

              (1) is (I think) self-evidently true, and I don’t think the ECtHR would want to deny it. To deny (2) is inherently absurd (being self-contradictory), and (3) is the adopted position of the ECtHR, i.e. the thing they are making a point of NOT denying. My argument is that (3) cannot be true if (1) and (2) are, and so the court has adpoted a contradictory position.
              This means (given the obviousness of (1) and (2)), that it is legitimate to deprive all prisoners of the vote, in so far as it is legitimate to give them prison sentences in the first place. Note that this does NOT mean that one must deprive all prisoners of the vote, but rather it is legitimate for a country to adopt a policy of doing so, and hence that the court has no business telling any state that it may not do so.

              What the court may do is question the legitimacy of imprisoning certain kinds of people currently in prison, but if it is not doing that then it cannot reasonably hold that it is illegitimate to take away their right to vote; unless it insists that either (a) losing one’s liberty is NOT more serious than losing the vote or (b) it is illegitimate to imprison all people legitimately given a prison sentence.

              • HJ777

                I don’t agree with your logic. Unfortunately I don’t have time to address all the points you make (sorry).

                However, let me provide one thought. Restricting someone of their liberty through imprisonment can be argued to be justifiable not just as a punishment, but also to protect the rights/safety of others. No such argument can be made about removing their right to vote. They are in no way equivalent, which is what you seem to be arguing.

                • Nick Kaplan

                  Well, you would first need to show not merely that depriving someone of their liberty is *ALSO* justified for the purposes of protection but that it was *ONLY* justified for the purposes of protection. For if it is legitimate to imprison people for the purposes of punishing them then it would be legitimate to punish people by removing their right to vote. The existence or otherwise of other grounds for imprisonment being a separate point.
                  Secondly allowing prisoners to vote arguably does have an effect on the safety of others since they may well vote in a way that leads to the reduction of prison sentences (or other punishments for crime) which could lead to an increase in crime.
                  Since there is no time limit on your opporuntiy to respond to the earlier post I don’t see how you don’t have time to reply…..

                • HJ777

                  You simply assert that “For if it is legitimate to imprison people for the purposes of punishing them then it would be legitimate to punish people by removing their right to vote.” You haven’t demonstrated that this is the case.

                  You also assert that removing the right to vote is a lesser ‘punishment’ than imprisonment. That’s your value judgement and it assumes that there is one scale of punishments, with every sanction that could be imposed existing somewhere on that single sliding scale. I do not accept that that is the case

                  I might also argue that removing the right to vote isn’t a punishment at all, it is merely a violation of human rights. Many human rights violations have nothing to do with punishment.

                • Nick Kaplan

                  You say: “You simply assert that “For if it is legitimate to imprison people for the purposes of punishing them then it would be legitimate to punish people by removing their right to vote.” You haven’t demonstrated that this is the case.”

                  I have not simply asserted this, I provided a justification for it in the earlier post where I said:

                  “Part of what it means to recognize that punishment A (loss of liberty) is more harsh than punishment B (temporary loss of the vote), is that if one’s wrongdoing is not sufficiently serious to render B justified/ legitimate then it cannot (logically cannot) be sufficiently serious to justify/ legitimize applying punishment A.”

                  You then go on: “You also assert that removing the right to vote is a lesser ‘punishment’ than imprisonment.” I have not asserted this. I have said that I had taken it to be self-evident. I went on to recognize that you suggest in a few places that it is open to question, although you seem strangely reluctant to actually question the truth of it (is this because you actually agree?). So do you or do you not think that the right to liberty is more important than the right to vote, and consequently that the deprivation of the right to the former is more serious than deprivation of the right to the latter?

                  You further say: “….That’s your value judgement and it assumes that there is one scale of punishments, with every sanction that could be imposed existing somewhere on that single sliding scale.”

                  It may very well be my value judgement, but it does not follow that it is *just*my value judgement or that it isn’t a correct assessment of the relative importance of the rights involved (only the latter would be a relevant argument). I find it hard to believe that there is anyone alive who would prefer to be in prison but able to vote rather than free but unable to do so. And, although I accept that people’s preferences don’t dictate what is right and wrong, the fact that such a choice would be made by the overwhelming majority of people would suggest that this is more than *just* my own value judgement.

                  I don’t see how the proposition that ‘depriving someone of their liberty is more serious than depriving them of the vote’ assumes (or even implies) that there is a single sliding scale of punishments, I have no idea whether or not there is such a scale. I am simply saying that liberty of the individual is clearly more important than voting in an election involving millions of people where the chances of your vote making a difference to the outcome is minute and the chances of a different outcome making a difference to government policy even smaller (all parties ultimately act the same anyway). Democracy itself is very important (it is vital that governments can be held to account), but it does not follow that the right of each and every individual to vote is similarly important; it is not, the government remains accountable even when certain sections of society (criminals) cannot vote.

                  You conclude: “I might also argue that removing the right to vote isn’t a punishment at all, it is merely a violation of human rights. Many human rights violations have nothing to do with punishment.”

                  By all means please do make such an argument (I’d be interested to see it), but until such time as you have done so, rather than merely hinting at the possibility of doing so, I shan’t take the suggestion seriously. I will merely point out that the fact that many human rights violations have nothing to do with punishment, doesn’t show either that deprivation of the right to vote is a violation of the prisoner’s human rights (he has no such right), or that in this particular case it is not a punishment.

                  How you found the time to respond to my last post but couldn’t find time to address the logic of my main argument is beyond me. Had you done the latter and not the former you would have realized that your accusations that I have merely ‘asserted’ various points does not stack up. I can only assume that the reason you have not addressed the broader point is because you are unable to do so ( a fault not with you, but the position you and the ECtHR has adopted).

                • HJ777

                  You say: “I have not simply asserted this, I provided a justification for it in the earlier post where I said:…”

                  The problem is that what constitutes a justification’ in your eyes is based on assertion – you have, as I said, DEMONSTRATED nothing.

                  You say: “You then go on: “You also assert that removing the right to vote is a lesser ‘punishment’ than imprisonment.” I have not asserted this. I have said that I had taken it to be self-evident. ”

                  That is in itself an assertion and it also assumes that they are both being applied as ‘punishments’. As I have pointed out, something does not have to be a punishment to be contrary to a human right.

                  You say “I find it hard to believe that there is anyone alive who would prefer to be in prison but able to vote rather than free but unable to do so. And, although I accept that people’s preferences don’t dictate what is right and wrong”

                  Who is talking about people’s preferences? Irrelevant. I’d rather lose my right to vote than suffer all sorts of things. That doesn’t justify taking away my right to vote.

                  “…doesn’t show either that deprivation of the right to vote is a violation of the prisoner’s human rights (he has no such right)”

                  Again, an assertion that “he has no such right”. The ECHR says otherwise. I believe otherwise. You’ve demonstrated no such thing.

                  It is hard to address the ‘logic’ of your argument, because I see no logic. Just a load of assertions and convoluted nonsense.

                • Nick Kaplan

                  1. I do not know (or frankly care) what you would count as a demonstration. I have not asserted what you accused me of asserting, I have produced a reasoned account for what I have said. You have yet to say anything to rebut it other than calling it an ‘assertion’ and asserting that it has not been demonstrated. If you want to engage in argument it behoves you to attempt to rebut what I have written, not simply dismiss it with the ungrounded suggestion that I haven’t demonstrated what I have given reasons for believing.

                  2. To take something as being self evident is not to assert anything, it is to assume something I thought unlikely to be in contention. Until you actually question (with reasoning) that assumption, as I have already asked you to do, I will take myself to be entitled to make it. Further I have already given some reasons to think it true, none of which you have engaged with.

                  3. You are correct that I have assumed that they are both being applied as punishments. I hadn’t realized this was in contention, and do not understand how it could be; I await a substantive response. And although something doesn’t have to be a punishment to be contrary to a human right, I cannot see the relevance of this point (which I have not questioned and indeed willingly accepted), as it does nothing to show that one cannot legitimately punish someone by depriving them of what would otherwise be their rights, nor that the thing in question is not in this case a punishment.

                  4. I was talking about people’s preferences in order to provide some basis (albeit a basis of minor significance, as I have acknowledged) for thinking that my assessment of the relative worth of the right to liberty and the right to vote was more than *merely* my ‘value judgement.’ I did not pretend that this showed that it is legitimate to remove the right to vote; my argument on this front is only that anyone who accepts that it is legitimate to imprison people must also accept it is legitimate to deprive them of the right to vote, if they accept that liberty is more important than voting (which you are still to openly deny, despite my having challenged you do to so, if this is indeed what you think).

                  5. Yes, I did simply assert that a prisoner has no such right. I didn’t feel this point was worth getting in to in detail as it was an aside (hence the use of brackets!). I will simply point out that one does not refute a point by calling it an assertion.

                  6. You yourself said ‘I don’t agree with your logic’ implying that there was some logic with which you did not agree. I have given clear reasons for my position, you have implicitly acknowledged this, it is now for you to engage with the substance of what I have said. The obscurantist suggestion that I have merely made assertions does not even begin to refute my argument. It is merely a sophistic way for you to avoid dealing with the substance of it. It is interesting to note that the excuse for this has now shifted from a lack of time on your behalf, to a lack of clarity on mine. Please point out what you find unclear and I shall try to clarify.

                • HJ777

                  Hard to engage with substance when there is no substance.

                  You try to construct a complex argument based just on assertions. That you cannot see that they are merely (and clearly) assertions is your issue, not mine.

                  I do not have to rebut anything. Clearly you haven’t a scientific background. I merely have to show that what you assert to be facts have no supporting evidence, therefore you cannot justify your conclusions.

                  Until you understand this, I see little point in continuing to engage with your ramblings

                • Nick Kaplan

                  This patently ridiculous bit of obfuscation and sophistry is proof positive that you have no desire to engage in substantive discussion and no interest in getting to the truth of this matter (whatever it may be).

                  It is perfectly clear that whatever I say you will simply label an assertion and refuse to engage substantively with. But, as I have mentioned already, to label something an assertion is not to refute the point being made. This is especially so when the labeling is deliberately misleading, as when you call a reasoned argument an assertion, in full awareness that the normal use of the term ‘assertion’ is to draw a contrast with a reasoned argument.

                  You go on to say (or is it to assert given your ironic lack of evidence?) that I clearly have no background in science. It is equally apparent that you have no background in basic logic. What has a background in science got to do with an argument about logical consistency and ethical reasoning? When did I assert any fact (in the scientific sense of that word)? I have not appealed to facts, but to values and logic, and anyone with a basic grasp of the is-ought/ fact-value distinction would be perfectly well aware that the issue of evidence does not arise in this context. Which of my arguments/ statements do you think require evidential support or scientific reasoning? What sort of evidence did you have in mind?

                  Is your statement that you “do not have to rebut anything” a statement of fact? What evidence have you for it? Or do you merely assert it? If so why should I take it seriously?

                  Are you unable to see that each time you claim that my arguments are assertions you are engaging in the fallacy of equivocation; i.e. the fallacy by which you take one meaning of a word (the sense in which to assert something is simply to say it – in which sense I, as you, cannot but assert the things I say, for to write them down or say them aloud is to assert them) and, deliberately or otherwise, confuse it with a different/ stronger sense of that word (the sense in which it is to say something without any reason or grounding)? Can you not see how trivial a discussion would be if I were to say of everything you wrote that it was an assertion (i.e. something you had said) and therefore can be safely ignored (implying you had given no reasons for it)?

                  Similarly are you unable to see that you have committed the fallacy of scientism i.e. of assuming that the only valid form of reasoning is a posteriori scientific reasoning and the only type of reasons are evidential reasons, thereby ignoring e.g. logical, mathematical or teleological reasoning (to mention just a few alternatives).

                  It seems to me that the reason why you are so keen to disengage is because you are well aware that your position (I was tempted to say your argument, but realized you haven’t actually presented one) has been comprehensively demolished, but you want to avoid the embarrassment of admitting it. This is why you have given 3 different and increasingly absurd reasons for not engaging substantively: (i) lack of time (ii) my lack of clarity and (iii) my failure to somehow prove my position using science. That I have offered to accommodate your first 2 complaints but that you have ignored these offers shows you have no interest in being open minded and merely came here to spout your existing (and poorly supported) beliefs. By all means disengage, but at least have the honour to admit that my position was better grounded than you had initially thought.

                • HJ777

                  Sorry – too long and tedious to read.

                  Hope you enjoyed writing it.

                • Nick Kaplan

                  In brief: you lost, you should accept it and move on.

                • HJ777

                  If it makes you happy to think that, be my guest.

                • Nick Kaplan

                  I shall take that as your acceptance of defeat

                • HJ777

                  I invite you to do whatever makes you happy.

                  I am not interested.

                • Nick Kaplan

                  What do you mean by you ‘invite me,’ I’ve just told you that I’ve already done it, no invitation necessary…

                • HJ777

                  I’m very pleased for you.

                  I assume that’s what you always do.

                • Nick Kaplan

                  Your evidence for that assertion being?

                • HJ777

                  It’s not an assertion, it’s an assumption.

                  Not good on understanding what is, and what is not, an assertion, are you?

                • Nick Kaplan

                  It is called irony.
                  Your evidence/ the basis for that asumption being?

                • Nick Kaplan

                  And not because it made me happy, but because your inability to engage clearly demonstrates that you have nothing intelligent to say.

                • HJ777

                  If thinking that makes you happy…

                • Nick Kaplan

                  It makes me despair for/ pity you, rather than making me happy

                • HJ777

                  Why would I care? How you feel is up to you.

                • Nick Kaplan

                  Perhaps it is up to me, but it is down to you and your inability to engage in rational argument beyond making cheap points in a refusal to engage.

                • HJ777

                  Tell you what – you believe what you want.

                  I’ll believe what I want – that you are a fool who is not worth further indulgence.

                • Nick Kaplan

                  Your beliving what you want to believe rather than what you have reason to believe seems to be the primary problem with this ‘argument.’
                  Incidentally, by your very refusal to admit defeat you are continuing to indulge me!

                • Nick Kaplan

                  “Hard to engage with substance when there is no substance.”

                  This is pure bluster.

                  “You try to construct a complex argument based just on assertions.”

                  Ungrounded assertion.

                  “That you cannot see that they are merely (and clearly) assertions is your issue, not mine.”

                  Bluster again.

                  “I do not have to rebut anything.”

                  Assertion. Why not?

                  “Clearly you haven’t a scientific background.”

                  Please demonstrate with evidence.

                  ” I merely have to show that what you assert to be facts have no supporting evidence”

                  Assertion. On what basis do you say this?

                  “therefore you cannot justify your conclusions”

                  Please demonstrate with evidence.

                  “Until you understand this, I see little point in continuing to engage with your ramblings.”
                  Bluster to avoid subtantive engagement.

              • salieri

                Well said. The only point on which I would beg to differ is that, as Mr. Herbert put it this morning, the right to vote is a civic right but not a human right and should therefore be subject to the sole control of Parliament. Not everyone will agree but that premise seems to me to dispose of the need for argument.

                • Nick Kaplan

                  I’m inclined to agree that that is correct, nonetheless I don’t think it affects my argument as I believe that there are circumstances in which people lose their human rights e.g. criminals lose their right to liberty when they persistently or seriously offend.

    • andagain

      OK, will someone explain to me why prisoners should not be allowed to vote? They are citizens after all.

      I think that if the government had descided to rescind the ban on their voting of its own volition there would be a bit of harumphing on the back benches and an editorial in the Daily Mail, and not much other opposition.

      It is the order to do this from the ECHR that has caused all the trouble.

      People accept theright of Parliament to write the law in the UK. They do not accept the ECHR’s right to do so.

      For practical purposes, the difference between a legitimate ruler and a tyrant is that people accept the rulers right to rule. People in the UK appear not to accept the ECHR’s right to tell Parliament what to do.

    • JP

      On the other hand, the prisoner vote may be swayed toward candidates who support more perks for prisoners or early release programmes (slightly simplistic, but you get my point). While representing a small proportion of the overall vote, and as such unlikely to sway any election, it is the principle that they don’t get any say in the terms and conditions of their incarceration. I think that stacks up fairly logically, but I also agree with the more general principle of no votes for prisoners as a restriction of their rights to be part of society – although their are clear anomalies to this.

  • Q46

    There is a simple solution, if withdrawing from the European Court of Human Rights is complex because participation in other conventions is contingent on membership to that one, then Britain must leave all these conventions, convened and overseen by those who are unaccountable to the electorate and which produce no benefit to the citizens of the UK.

    Britain has its Common Law – upon which most of these conventions are based anyway – and Britain’s participation was based on the arrogant assumption by British elites that everyone would follow Britain’s example. They do not. These rules were for Johnny Foreigner not us. Except Britain has fallen foul of them.

    The net result is Britain is hampered by conditions which may be beneficial where presumption of innocence, trial by jury and habeas corpus are not rooted in law, tradition and culture, dictatorships are of recent memory, States are recent and artificial constructs, republics not parliamentary democracies.

    But not so the UK.

    These international conventions confound the basic principles of British justice and the Common Law, evolution of the law by precedence, citizen-centric justice not arranged round panels of wise, legalistic men and that the British people are sovereign and decide their own laws and delivery of justice.

  • LB

    No washing lines across a street.

    Break that and you still have the right to vote.

    Two people can play silly buggers.

  • Robert_Eve

    If there is the political will then it’s easy.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Btw how are those high-minded conventions that Chris tells us are “internationally accepted” going down in the Islamic world and China?

    • TomTom

      “internationally accepted” is Ethnocentric US-American Neo-Imperialism where Western Lawyers hide behind Atomic Weapons to impose their Values on other Peoples. It is simply the old Victorian Colonialism imposing White Man’s Current Value System on Lesser Races

  • Jebediah

    Ignore them and don’t pay the fines. What are they going to do?

    • David Blackburn

      I’ve added a postscript in the post to answer your question.

      • Ian Walker

        Your postscript therefore introduces the slightly less nuclear option of repealing the laws that give the ECHR it’s primacy.

        • David Blackburn

          Indeed, it’s difficult.

          • Jebediah

            Thank you for the reply David. I feel the huge democratic deficit that the EU has caused, and the impositions upon us mean it is time to ask the British people whether we want to stay in the EU or not. What the EU is today, is not what we voted for. Time for us to choose rather than for politicians to obsfucate.

            • HJ777

              The European Court of Human Rights has nothing whatever to do with the EU. Completely separate institution – Britain was a leading player in its establishment.

              • Francis Horner

                However membership of the EU now REQUIRES subscribing to ECHR, additionally the EU has now signed ECHR in its own right, on behalf of its members. While the EU and the ECHR started off as entirely separate, they are now closely aligned.

                You can subscribe to ECHR without being a member of the EU BUT NOT VICE VERSA. Some how the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, NZ etc all seem to be able to get along without ECHR and not being absolutist regimes.

                • HJ777

                  That really isn’t relevant. The UK chose to be subject to the rulings of the ECHR before it was ever a member of the EU.

          • Vulture

            It’s not ‘difficult’ David – it’s bloody unacceptable that free people are governed by those they have not elected.

            That principle was behind the American Revolution, among many others.

          • Jimbo

            Parliament can by statute prevent any UK Court levying fines for this breach of the Convention. There would be no need for the government to break UK laws.

            That only leaves the ECHR itself. I cannot imagine how the ECHR would be able to enforce any fine which it issued. The UK would presumably be in breach of its treaty obligations if it didn’t pay. But that seems reasonable enough in circumstances where the ECHR has morphed itself into something far more intrusive than was ever intended when the UK signed the Convention.

            • HooksLaw

              You raise the issue of reform of the ECHR which is a fair point.

              • TomTom

                You cannot reform a Treaty like the European Convention particularly when Britain and Italy are the two most frequent Defendants at the Court

            • Andy

              Quite agree.

              And the ECHR has invented this prisoners right to vote bull. The topic was considered when the convention was drafted and left out. It has thus been entirely legal for prisoners not to have the vote as we have decided for over 50 years. It is merely the Court rewriting the Convention as they like.

        • Q46

          Quite so, except…

          … if Parliament changes the law the UK gets fined, because national Parliaments have not the power to overturn EU laws.

          This seems to be the point that so many miss when discussions about the consequences of EU Membership take place, the British, or indeed the French, Germans, etc, no longer have the power via their Parliaments to decide the laws, change, repeal much of the laws by which they live.

          Such laws are determined by a body of people over which national electorates have no control.

          Even if a member of the Council of Ministers is elected by a particular Member State’s electorate, the other 25 are not. The Council as a whole has no accountability to any National or pan-European population as a whole and certainly no member of the European Commission, the originator of most laws, is accountable to any electorate at all.

          This so-called democratic deficit has become particularly important now that there is qualified majority voting, and as we see with the proposed Cameron veto, whilst this may stop the new budget increase proposals, it will trigger an automatic increase anyway over which nobody has any control.

          • TomTom

            Simply pass an Act to Invoke National Sovereignty or Act of Supremacy and anchor it in Referendum. Henry VIII took on a far more powerful force in Europe in days when France and Spain could invade and conquer.

          • HooksLaw

            The ECHR is not an EU body so launching a tirade against the EU is facile.
            The EU as you imply should not be a political body.


            Any free trade agreement would involve loss of sovereignty and the passing of some legal decision making to outside arbitrators. There is a naive lack of understanding about what a ‘free trade agreement’ is.

        • Nick Kaplan

          Which law do you have in mind? I don’t know of any law giving the ECtHR primacy over parliament, the Human Rights Act deliberately did NOT do this.

  • Vulture

    Kicking the can into the long grass is typical of politicians too scared to grasp the nettle of a direct clash between a free Parliament and an unelected bench of foreign judges who wear the EU’s badge of servitude on their robes.

    We signed up to the Convention in a Europe emerging from war and tyranny. As Europe plunges back down that same road we should again set an example and quit.

    As David says, this goes far beyond the paltry issue of prisoner’s votes. Many died for the principle of Parliamentary democracy,and our freedom is once again in mortal peril.

    • Heartless etc.,

      In a land where the PM is the tool of a foreign power block, an Archbishop cannot form a single cogent sentence, a brave and valuable soldier is imprisoned whilst serving an increasingly unlovable country – and while known trouble makers are at large, – where PC bullshit overrides all argument and where an alien religion is given more credence and clout than the Church by Law established, where ‘education’ is a forlorn hope for many, where politicians are systematically abusing their entitlements, where the press is threatened with puerile censure, – small wonder that the few good (wo)men and true call for the remnants of justice to be returned and retained, for the little while that remains of our increasingly subjugated country.

      Will this pass the Censor ( I mean Moderator) ?

      • HooksLaw

        You talk gibberish. All you offer is the excuse for totalitarianism down the ages.
        As for the press – the modern day press is an abomination, it is the puerile object, but like a lot of things we are stuck with it.

        • EJ

          No – Heartless is bang on the money.

        • FrenchNewsonlin

          …’modern day press is an abomination’… This is no time to be attacking the press, the Leveson Inquiry is doing that far too effectively. You can’t separate freedom of speech from press freedom (remembering that ‘press’ 300 years ago meant the pamphleteers) so stand foursquare for today’s media or lose your own rights. The issue is to ensure existing law is applied when the ladies and gentlemen of the press transgress. We really do not need to be rehashing arguments settled three centuries ago and proudly transposed to other democracies.

          • HooksLaw

            The press do not have the freedom to break the law.

            And in any event who is suggesting the press be politically circumscribed? One of the reasons the press itself is before Levenson is because of a crass and ill based report against one newspaper by another. How stupid is that?

            We have seen countless examples of the press behaving badly incompetently and ignorantly and shamelessly. It is an abomination; a field, one of the few outside owning a football club, where being ignorant and stupid is an asset.

            • FrenchNewsonlin

              …”who is suggesting the press be politically circumscribed? ” You’ve not really been keeping up have you?

              • HooksLaw

                ‘the press is threatened with puerile censure’

      • EJ

        Hear hear! The best post I’ve read today. Thank you.